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T ot ally Sp ai n’s Gui d e t o t he Me nu d e l Di a i n Sp ai n

Totally Spain’s Guide to the Menu del Dia in Spain –
Regional & Seasonal Dining at an Amazing Price /2016/02/11/menu-del-dia-in-spain/
by Totally Spain

Eating out is a major part of any holiday and here in Spain we have amazing restaurants to suit every budget. Today
we’re going to focus on the set-price meal in Spain known as the ‘menu-del-dia’ which is usually served at lunchtime
from Monday to Friday. It offers incredible value for money and you’d be hard pushed to find anywhere in Europe
that offers the same quality and choice at the price with wine included.
Traditionally, the menu del dia was for workers who couldn’t make it back home in time for lunch. Curiously, Franco
is credited with its creation. He had designed a set-price tourist menu back in 1964 and replaced it with the ‘menu
del dia’ in 1970 to showcase Spanish regional cuisine. Today, it still fits that original purpose – a nourishing and
complete three-course meal that offers good value for money. Even if you don’t see the set-price menu board
outside a restaurant, it’s always worth asking staff whether they offer a menu del dia.

You won’t walk past offers like these anywhere outside of Spain! First course: Cream of courgette soup, veg paella,
or, Russian salad. Second course: baked trout, scrambled eggs with black pudding and veg, or,
meatballs. With bread, dessert and a drink for 9.95. Half menu for 7.90. 20% surcharge for the
All of the images today come from menu boards in Northern Spain – where you’ll find amazing
value for money when it comes to quality casual dining. You’ll come across these chalk boards in
every town and village, city and even some airports and train stations offer them. The average
price for the chalkboards you see here today is 11.29 euro but we made a point of sticking to the
busy main streets. If you are prepared to walk a little bit more, you’ll find dozens of three-course
menus for under 10 euro!

These low-tech boards tell you this is no franchise and that’s a good thing in Spain! First course:
chicken soup, Spaghetti a la carbonara, or, rice salad. Second course: scrambled eggs, escalope
or breaded steaks with a cheese sauce, or fish or the day. Bread, wine and dessert all for 10
After years eating out in Spain, and planning meals for our clients, we’ve come to realize that the
best indication for a great ‘menu’ isn’t the look of the place or the price – it’s how many people eat
there. Anywhere that’s busy with locals eating at 1:30 is going to be great – as the
Spanish generally only go for lunch at 2pm – so you know they are going early to get a table and
the most choice. Of course, busy places plan for multiple sittings but if you know a place is good
we recommend going early to avoid waiting for a table. (It’s the only time we recommend eating
before 2pm in Spain.)
We usually steer clear of the pasta options on menus and we’d probably advise the same. But
with a choice of three starters and mains, there’s always lots to choose from. First course: lentil
stew, spaghetti bolognese, or, salad with crab sticks. Second course: chicken strips, Pork steak
with veg, or, chorizo with egg. All for 9.80 euro
Some of the chalk boards might look a bit rushed – and that’s a good sign – it has been written
hastily by the chef after he or she has returned from the food market. This is why you rarely find
translations of the menu in English. In fact, if you see anything that indicates that the actual menu
wasn’t prepared that morning (laminated menus, translations or photos of what’s on the ‘menu’
that don’t look like they were done that morning) then avoid the place!

Don’t worry –
you don’t need
to balance on
the wobbly
stools – you’ll
be siting down

First course:
Riojan Potato
and Chorizo
stew, Spaghetti
with Chorizo,
Lentil stew,
eggs, or, a
mixed salad.
Second course:
Grilled steak or
breaded steak
with fries, fish of
the day, eggs
with chorizo or
jamon, spicy
chicken breast,
or, tripe
casserole. With
water, wine,
Casera (a soda
drink) and
dessert for 10

We are over into the region of Asturias where beans and blue cheese are very popular! First course: bean stew,
paella, Asturian pote (bean, potato & cabbage stew), seafood soup, or, mixed salad. Second course: roast lamb,
wild boar with fries, breaded steaks with Cabrales blue cheese sauce, breaded steaks stuffed with ham & cheese,
or, baked sea bream. With dessert, water, wine or cider for 11 euro
One of the reasons we love eating the ‘menu’ is because it is always local and seasonal. The chefs buy and serve
what’s on offer at the market – which is what is in season. They also serve what the clients want to eat – which is
warming and comforting stews in winter – with more grilled dishes in the Summer.

This one is a bit more expensive than the average – you have to reckon the portions are even more generous or the
quality of the wine is better. First course: salmon stew, veg stir-fry, or, salad with cured beef (cecina). Second course:
pork tenderloin with cheese, fish of the day, or eggs with bacon. Plus dessert, drink and bread for 14 euro

La Bebida – The Drink

If you are eating on your own or with just one other person, you may have to decide between the red wine or the
water or ask for both and be charged for the water. If there are four or you or more, you can just say ‘agua y vino’
and they’ll bring both to the table. In the larger cities, restaurants are starting to serve glasses of wine rather than
bottles so don’t be insulted if it happens to you – just rejoice when it doesn’t.
It’s unusual to have white wine with a set-price menu in Spain– but if that’s what you want, you’ll probably be
brought a glass. If you don’t want wine and prefer a draught beer, ask for a cana. In the more rustic of places, when
you order wine, you might be offered ‘Casera’ which is a fizzy soda water and is great for lifting what might be a fairly
cheeky or young red wine. If you see others with a bottle of Casera on the table – you know what you are being

given. Try it – it’s not bad.

Another more upscale offering but this place is run by a well-known chef and the level of detail tells you this will be
an elaborate meal. First course: mackerel tartar with tomato and avocado, vegetable stir-fry with saffron and jamon,
or, chickpeas in vinaigrette with white anchovies. Second course: baked fillet of hake with ratatouille and garlic, slow
cooked pork knuckle with cous cous, pine nuts and raisins, or, grilled shoulder of Iberian (acorn-fed) pork with rice,
spinach, raisins & sweet and sour sauce. With bread, drink and dessert or coffee for 15 euro
Pan – Bread
You will always be served a basket of bread or a breadroll with or just before the first course appears. You may or
may not be offered more bread if you finish the first batch. If you want more – ask for it. Butter is never served –
although if you specifically ask for it, it will be brought, with a raised eye-brow or two. You might find olive oil on the
table and you can use that if you don’t like dry bread but we recommend you wait and dip the sauces from your
plate. When in Spain!
The writing looks a bit rushed but that probably means the chef wrote it. We’re being given very little detail about
how the dishes are prepared which tells us this is probably a chef who delivers his dishes in a classic style. The
interior also suggests the same – you can see one of those fridges at the door to showcase its raw materials. Again
– here you are paying for simplicity and quality – we’d expect top-class service, top notch ingredients and a very
handsome wine here. First course: Russian salad, Ratatouille, Red bean stew, or, Castilian Bread soup. Second
course: Hake cheeks, fried sea bream, pork cheeks, or, breaded beefsteak with cheese. With dessert, bread, and a
drink for 15 euro
Primero – First course
The first course isn’t an appetizer or starter – it’s actually your main course. So if you are hungry, this is where you
need to pack in the carbs and the volume. Pulses are your friend if you are starving for two reasons – firstly because

they are filling and secondly before they are often served in a big casserole pot from which you serve yourself – so

you can have seconds and thirds – if you need to. Pastas and rice dishes also crop up here a lot. For those of you
looking to shed pounds rather than gain them – look out for the soups and the salads.
On one of Santander’s poshest streets and you can still find places offering the ‘menu del dia’. While it’s not cheap,
this includes coffee so it’s almost a four-course menu. First course: Mixed salad served with cured meats and
olives, paella, scrambled eggs, or, red bean stew. Second course: Baked steak au gratin, chicken breast with
caramelised onions, or, baked hake with a stuffing. With a drink, bread, dessert AND a coffee for 14.90 euro
Segundo – Second course
The second course is where you get your protein. You’ll find a meat, fish and perhaps an egg-based dish here. The
pricier the menu – the better the cuts of meat or varieties of fish. But cheaper cuts don’t mean bad quality – the
opposite in fact. we love slow-cooked beef cheeks, the homemade meatballs in a rich sauce and the stuffed
peppers – these are the dishes you rarely prepare at home. Sometimes these are served or garnished with a few
fried potatoes or side-salad but you’ll find plenty of places that just serve it as it is. This is how the Spanish eat.
We like when it’s obvious that the board is written up every day. You can see this one is weed clean every day as
the writing wouldn’t be so fresh if it was there for a few days. First course: Paella, Beef and potato stew, salad with
cured meats, or, pasta with a seafood sauce. Second course: chicken thighs in curry, lamb cutlets, scrambled eggs
with fries and gulas (eel-like seafood strips), or, grilled salmon with salad. With bread, a drink and dessert for 10
euro. (11.50 on the terrace)
Postre – Dessert
Desserts tend to be egg-based in Spain. The king of all menu del dia desserts is the ‘flan’ which is a crème-caramel
often served with cream. Rice pudding is another one that crops up a lot. And natillas which is a custard. You might

also be offered ice-cream which is probably not home-made. It’s often a Magnum or Cornetto. Fresh fruit is another

popular offering. And yoghurt is another. Even if you aren’t offered fruit – you can ask whether they have any. We
love when strawberries are in full season around Easter time and the restaurants prepare them with cream, orange
juice or our old favourite balsamic vinegar.
One of our favourites and not just because of the price. The food and the service is great! It’s unusual to see what’s
on offer for dessert – probably because there’s no room on the chalkboard. First course: Cantabrian bean stew,
seafood rice dish, spaghetti with prawns, mixed salad, or, cream of vegetable soup. Second course: slow cooked
beef shank, stuffed chicken breast, beef steak, battered anchovies, or grilled sardines. With bread, a drink, a
mystery dessert or coffee for 9 euro
You can order a coffee afterwards and it will be added to the bill as an extra. If you haven’t ordered dessert, you
generally won’t be charged for the coffee (it replaces the dessert). When having your coffee, you might be offered a
free digestif if you look like you’re not in a rush. ‘Chupito’ is the word for an after dinner snifter. Go with whatever is
on offer. It’ll come in a shot glass and might be herbal, honey-infused or something sweet like a hazelnut, coffee or
Bailey-like cream liqueur.
Sometimes the board outlines the quantity of liquids on offer. Here we are told it’s half a bottle of wine (that’s three
glasses!) per person. There are some countries where you pay 12.50 euro for the wine alone! First course: lentil
stew with chorizo, vegetables au gratin with brie cheese, or, warm salad with wild mushrooms. Second course: lamb
and potato stew, blue whiting in batter served with salad, or, beef cordon bleu (beef with ham and cheese served in
batter). Dessert: pear tart, baked apple with caramel, or ice-cream. With bread, and a drink for 12.50 euro. (30 cent
supplement on the terrace)

Cuenta – Bill
Sometimes the waiter will bring out the bill when you’ve ordered your coffee. If not just ask for “la cuenta cuando
puedas”. The bill should be the exact price of the menu plus whatever coffees and other extra drinks you’ve ordered.
You may be charged a terrace supplement – but this should have been pointed out to you already. Very occasionally
you will have taxes added onto the price – although this is both illegal and annoying. Prices advertised to the public
should always state VAT (known as IVA).

Definitely worth a closer look this typical Asturian menu! First course: bean stew, beans with clams, beans with gulas
(eel like seafood), red beans with rice, octopus and potato stew, sausage and potato stew, cod with chickpeas, lentil
stew, meat paella, or, salad. Second course: venison stew, slow cooked pork knuckle with/without Cabrales blue
cheese, stew pork cheek, breaded steak with eggs and chips, roast chicken drumsticks, meatballs with chips, baked
cod, grilled seabass, or squid in its ink with fries. With dessert, a drink for 10 euro (8 euro for half menu)
In terms of a tip, we would leave 1 euro per person if you enjoyed your meal. If you adored it, we would leave 2 euro
– and generally never more than a 5 euro note for a table of 4 or 10 euro for a big group. Read more about tipping
in Spain here.

This place is pushing it two-course ‘menu’ for 6.50 which is usually the first course and dessert – perfect for anybody
in a rush or if you want to enjoy dinner out in the evening. First course: Russian salad, scrambled eggs, or, green
bean stew. Second course: tripe stew, pork steak with chips, fried anchovies. With bread, wine and dessert for 10
Alternatives? Some restaurants are aware that the two-hour lunchbreak doesn’t suit everybody. If you see the ½

menu, it usually refers to having a starter and a dessert for a little over half the price of a three course. Other
premises offer a ‘plato del dia’ which might cost about 5 euro and you pay your drinks, bread etc as extra. There is
always the plato combinado option which is usually a grilled steak with chips with a side salad or eggs with chips
and chorizo. And of course – everywhere will have the ‘a la carte’ menu as well. Plus the degustacion or tasting
menu – although this is usually at weekends and evenings.

Pasta dishes usually turn up on the first course but here you can see it’s the second course – probably because it’s
bolognese which is a meaty sauce. First course: bean stew, stir fried peas with jamon, pasta salad, mixed salad, or,
Cuban style rice (with tomato and garlic). Second course: breaded steaks with Cabrales blue cheese, Asturias style
tripe (with red peppers and pork), spaghetti bolognese, pork loin steak, or, hake in batter. With wine or water, bread
and a dessert for 10 euro
So that’s the basics about the menu del dia in Spain. We hope you enjoy a few on your next trip here!

And to sign off – one with a Catalan leaning! First course: Calcots (a scallion-like veg) with Romesco (red pepper

and almond) sauce, mixed salad, stir-fried artichokes, pork knuckle soup, or, goats cheese salad. Second course:
roast chicken, grilled salmon, flame grilled pork belly, flame grilled sausage, flame grilled steak (3 euro supplement),
or flame grilled lamb (3 euro supplement). With dessert of creme caramel, fruit, ice-cream or pastry, plus bread, wine
or water for 9.50 euro (half menu for 6.25 euro)

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